Bulgaria; home of cheap package holidays and Uncle Bulgaria of Womble fame. By some stroke of luck I had a Bulgarian recipe book on my shelf so I didn’t have to rely on the internet for a change. I’ve managed to acquire a few of these books over these years and I really like them; they’re only a fiver or so and give you a taste of some less-usual countries. Perfect for this project! Food from this region appears to be casserole based with vegetables, beans and meat; good hearty food. Another food prized in Bulgaria is yogurt; it was a Bulgarian medical student who first discovered the presence of bacteria in yogurt in 1905 soon after that scientists hypothesised that the regular consumption of yogurt was responsible for the unusually long life spans of peasants in Bulgaria.
Step one involved bookmarking any Bulgarian recipes in the book. I chose fried peppers with cheese, fried cheese and Varma Chicken.
The peppers were grilled to remove their skin then stuffed with a mixture of feta, parsley, chilli and egg. They were then dipped in seasoned flour and egg and shallow fried.
The fried cheese is traditionally made with kashkaval cheese but limited to Tesco on a bank holiday I substituted this with haloumi! The cheese is sliced and dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. We used panko breadcrumbs for a crunchy texture. This is then fried in vegetable oil.
The Varna-style chicken was delicious and something which would be good to serve for a larger number of people. There are plenty of recipes available online but the basis is that chicken (we used skin-on thigh) is seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme and fried off in butter. You then make a sauce using garlic, onion, sherry, tomatoes, white wine vinegar, mushrooms and herbs. The chicken is then baked in the sauce and served with rice.
For dessert I made a chocolate cake called Negarche from bulgarianfood.net The website claims Negarche (негърче) is very popular in Bulgaria despite not being a traditional recipe and most families will have their own variation.The website contains the full recipe but it’s basically a single layer chocolate cake covered in a chocolate glaze. The cake contains yoghurt which makes it very moist and kind of like a dense mousse.
All in all, our Bulgarian meal was nothing particularly exciting but the flavours were lovely and perfect for an afternoon in the garden. I even found a bottle of Bulgarian Merlot in Tesco which was perfectly drinkable!